Startups  April 15, 2022

All eyes on photonics at Colorado’s first industry expo

BROOMFIELD — From searching for life in other galaxies to detecting minuscule amounts of contaminants in the air, no problem is too large or too small for Colorado’s photonics companies.

The industry, which, thanks in large part to the University of Colorado, has a significant cluster in the Boulder Valley, took center stage Thursday in Broomfield with the first Colorado Photonics Expo and Gala organized by the Colorado Photonics Industry Association. 

Photonics is the science of light manipulation and often involves the use of lasers. Applications are nearly endless — from scanning the body for disease to navigating self-driving cars.

One of the most exciting uses for the technology is the study of space, which Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. is helping revolutionize with the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope, launched into orbit late last year. 

The hope is for Webb to capture faint light from the very first objects that illuminated the universe after the Big Bang and perhaps even discover alien life. 

“Everywhere we look, new galaxies are popping up in the background” of images captured by Webb, Ball program manager Erin Wolf said. 

Through use of photonics systems, “it’s really exciting to see what science might come out of Webb,” she said, adding that she expects the satellite will help “rewrite the textbooks.”

Back on Earth, Boulder-based Longpath Technologies Inc. is using laser technology to develop optics systems that detect methane leaks at oil and gas sites.

The laser system is placed in a central location, and eye-safe light is sent out over multi-mile pathways through the air. Small mirrors on monitored sites allow for quantified emission volumes for each site to be reported in real-time.  

“The growth rate of methane in the environment is quite startling,” Longpath co-founder Caroline Alden said, and the company aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by allowing operators to quickly respond to leaks. 

While global warming comes with a host of new risks to human life, Lafayette’s Insight Photonic Solutions Inc. is betting optical technology can improve the ways doctors detect medical problems. 

“We make things here in Colorado” that have the potential to change the entire world, Insight chief technology officer Jason Ensher said.

BROOMFIELD — From searching for life in other galaxies to detecting minuscule amounts of contaminants in the air, no problem is too large or too small for Colorado’s photonics companies.

The industry, which, thanks in large part to the University of Colorado, has a significant cluster in the Boulder Valley, took center stage Thursday in Broomfield with the first Colorado Photonics Expo and Gala organized by the Colorado Photonics Industry Association. 

Photonics is the science of light manipulation and often involves the use of lasers. Applications are nearly endless — from scanning the body for disease to navigating self-driving cars.

One of the…

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